Democrats are accusing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPoll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch Cardboard cutouts take place of absent lawmakers at town halls GOP groups ramp up pressure on lawmakers over ObamaCare MORE (Ky.) of threatening to shut down the government.
In a series of statements and fundraising emails, Democrats said McConnell’s statements in a news interview suggest he’d threaten to shut down the government by demanding that the White House accept restrictions on its policies in exchange for legislation funding the government.
"I am deeply disappointed that Sen. McConnell is already threatening a government shutdown next year if Republicans’ yet-to-be-named partisan demands aren’t met," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
"This further shows that Republicans are more interested in partisan, political games than in governing on behalf of the American people."
Democrats see talking up the possibility of a government shutdown as a political winner for their party ahead of a midterm election in which Republicans hope to take back the Senate’s majority.
The party saw momentum swing to its side last year after the GOP was blamed for a 16-day shutdown. But Democrats lost those political gains during the bungled rollout of the healthcare reform law.
“Republicans in Congress have yet to learn from their temper tantrum that shut down the government for 16 days and cost the American economy $24 billion last year in October,” said Drew Hammill, spokesman for Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said: “In no uncertain terms, Sen. McConnell is saying ‘elect me so I can shut down the government again.’ ”
McConnell said nothing of a shutdown in an interview with Politico, but did say that if Republicans win control of the Senate, they will add riders to spending bills to restrict the White House’s environmental and healthcare policies.
“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”
McConnell said it would be up to Obama to accept the GOP spending bills, and he suggested Obama would get the blame for a shutdown.
“Once again, we’re seeing that Republicans see government shutdowns as partisan tools, not economic disasters,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
“It’s exactly this kind of reckless gamesmanship that led to the last shutdown and is leaving the door open for another at the end of September. For the sake of our economy, this Republican Congress needs to take shutdowns off the table once and for all.”
This post was updated at 3:00 p.m.